Favellas are the masses of houses that occupy the hills all around Brazil. The Word favella comes from the plant that once thrived on the hills on which the goats ate. As the plant and goats slowly dissapeared the "Favella" houses grew and grew. They are now mainly built of brick but there are still house made of wood. The Favellas originated in the 1800s when land was promised to the thousands of veteran soldiers who fought in exchange for land, but all that was given was the less popular space up the the hills, they took this land and once settled they moving there families there, as slaves and cheap labour workers where brought in to work on the construction of neighbourhoods such as Copacabana and Ipanema, it was only affordable to make your house and live on the hills.
Rio has the one of the highest divisions between classes, your either rich or poor basically, the poor work for the rich as nannys, cleaners, porters etc. rather than paying for the bus to live outside of the city its easier to live nearby in the Favellas, and this means that rich and poor live side by side, expensive houses can be just across the street from a favella. Private schools are next door to public schools. Official numbers are unknown. The last censius was in 2000 130,000 were listed as the population in Brazils biggest Favella (Rochina) but at least 200,000 electricity meters were counted in that same year! Estimates in 2009 range from 250,000 to 300,000 people.
I had my own opinions on the Favellas in Rio, as i had watched a documentary at home.
It was about the Drug lords and gangs that occupy the differents hills and fight for territory to sell drugs and weapons. It shown how small children work there way up the chain by started out at watchers and spies and then dealers, once in the gangs there is no chance of getting out and murders and killings are often. Many gang members die before 25 years old. The tour i took today gave the other side if the story, normal non gang members trying to make an honest living, working and studying. We visited Rochina which is the biggest of all. I was suprised to find a pretty normal street with shops, markets and ever internet cafes. The electricity cables were less that to be desired though. Streets were so narrow and really hot and humid, a maze of houses stacked on top of eachother, it was really claustrophobic.
At one point me and dad hung back from the group to take pictures as we turned the next corner, the group was nowhere to be seen, there were 4 lots of steps and they could have been anywhere, luckily we heard them and quickly joined the group. By all means it not ideal, most people are on less than minimum wage, Electricity and water is sporadic and rain brings mudslides, it also very hard to get to the top houses and people have to sometimes climb hundreds of steps just to take out their rubbish out everyday. Only 5% are the drug lords and criminals, this small percentage are responisble for the bad reputation these hills hold. We visited a school project in another smaller favella, it was great to see our money going to a good cause, educating children in the hope they can make something better of there lives.
I was really keen to take as many pictures as possible on this trip. I love to photograph local people going about their day to day lives. but i understand these people may not feel the same and if i cannot do it discreetly i always ask permisson or dont take the shot. I found it really embarassing today when i saw i lady taking pictures inside someones house, there was also a guy with a huge camera taken videos and pictures of local people in a cafe. This was so stupid, not only for the fact we were in one the biggest drug area in Rio but also because the locals didnt like it. No respect and its such a shame.